Francis Ist, a Dangerous Idealist*
As atheists we sometimes forget that it is the papacy which is our philosophical and political adversary, regardless of the individual who occupies that position. In this blog entry, Jacques Savard sets the record straight.
Since the election of pope Francis I, much attention has focused on the past in an effort to understand the individual. Old documents have been brought to light, revealing a right-wing cleric with possible ties to the military dictatorship. It has also been learned that he promoted the struggle against atheism as a founding principle of a Catholic university in the 1970s. Although his links to the military junta remain to be verified, that issue is not relevant to an evaluation of his opposition to atheism.
Some observers are concerned by what he has written. However, I see nothing surprising in an administrator of an institution supporting the fundamental principles of the institution which appointed him. When Cardinal Bergoglio established the three founding principles of the Universidad del Salvador, he of course followed the lead of the Vatican. The priority (i.e. none) which these principles give to the search for knowledge is the same as for all religious schools where belief is always more important than knowledge, critical reason or free thought. What we have here is just another sad example – if one were needed – of a well-known reality.
At that time, the world was immersed in a cold war which threatened to heat up drastically at any moment. The cold war, a war of geopolitical influence, was accompanied by an ideological conflict between two opponents, the economic theories of Marxism and liberalism, as well as a conflict between competing metaphysical ideologies, i.e. between theism on the one hand and the state atheism of communism on the other. This latter combat was led principally by the various Christian churches in the name of the “free” world. The Vatican was an important leader in this struggle against atheism. There is thus nothing surprising in choosing the struggle against atheism as a major priority when establishing a Catholic university. The cardinal was only fulfilling his duty as a good soldier.
When he became pope Francis I, the former cardinal accepted the role of generalissimo of the Catholic theistic army. With theatrical gestures, live and on camera, he showed himself to be the fierce adversary which he of course is. Before the entire world, he affirmed the existence of a god governing the universe, the Christian god of course. He encouraged the masses to address themselves to this god, to pray to him, and to ask him to intervene in the world (thus affirming this god’s ability to do so) in order to bring his benediction (that is, to implore this god to intervene on his, Francis´, behalf). The new pope then prayed to the Virgin, his favourite demi-goddess, thus making another grossly dishonest affirmation of the existence of a parallel world inhabited by spiritual beings who have the power to intervene in our lives. The entire world witnessed these actions and they are sufficient to merit our resolute and unrelenting opposition. Nevertheless the new pope is simply doing his job and he will continue to do so until his death. It is our job to take note of these significant actions and to denounce systematically the underlying assumptions which they express.
Cardinal Bergoglio, as a Jesuit, has professed, propagated and defended theistic ideology throughout his entire lifetime. He has propagated unconfirmed hypotheses as if they were established truths and he will continue to do so as pope. He will give no quarter. He will make no concessions.
Obviously this is absolutely crucial for him and his ilk: no god would mean a complete loss of power and control over the masses. As pope, he rejects critical reason as a guide for earthly humanity and instead promotes a mythological worldview of which only he is the trustworthy and infallible spokesperson. Essentially his goal is to alienate people from their critical faculties and their intelligence in order to impose upon them an idealistic conception of reality so that their minds and bodies can be controlled.
This control has always been put at the disposal of the economic and political powers-that-be and will continue to be for as long as possible. The collusion between popes and economic and political power is a constant of history which began when the Constantine took control of the Christian Church at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE. In order to consolidate this power over the masses, one of his successors, the emperor Theodosius I, made Christianity the official and only state religion of his empire in 380 CE.
On a personal level, Francis appears to be an amiable individual, modest and sympathetic towards the poor. He is reputed to have spoken out strongly against economic neo-conservatism and globalization. If these allegations are true, that in itself would be revolutionary and a historical first. If he were to succeed, he would earn my admiration. However I wish him good luck if he really thinks he can change the direction of the ship of which he has recently been named helmsman.
He denies and continues to deny in public the primacy of critical reason and the autonomy of humanity. He is one of many disciples of Plato, except that his goal is to render humanity subservient to his influence and control, and to do so by pretending to be the infallible arbiter of absolute truth.
Whether Bergoglio has skeletons in his closet or not, his current role is enough to make me a vehement opponent of both him and his allies. His most recent actions are sufficient.
* In the context of this article, the term “idealist” refers to philosophical idealism, a school of thought which regards ideas or spirituality as the ultimate grounding of reality, as opposed to materialist philosophies which consider matter to be the basis of reality. Plato is the most famous idealist of antiquity; his ideas influenced large numbers of western philosophers.